Limb surgery deserves better than alarmist headlines

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Limb-lengthening surgery has been successfully performed for more than 50 years, but has never been covered in the corporate media until recently–and then only as a controversial elective surgery.

In fact, limb lengthening–an arduous, painful and expensive procedure–traditionally is done to repair bones that have suffered severe injury or birth defect. Bones are pulled apart so that osteogenesis, or bone formation, can occur in the gaps. Over months, bone segments can be doubled in length, according to the website of the Hospital for Special Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

The procedure was developed in Russia in the years after World War II by Dr. Gavrii A. Illizarov, who helped many World War II veterans crippled by improperly healed leg fractures. The procedure did not become common in the United States, however, until 1988.

Corporate media have taken little note of this remarkable procedure. (For two recent exceptions, see reports by ABC News and a San Diego NBC News affiliate. Online searches mostly reveal support sites and communities for those who have completed the surgery or are thinking about undergoing it. Recently, however, several articles have emphasized occasional controversies associated with it, for example within the dwarf community.

To report on this remarkable procedure not at all for years – and then, belatedly, only as a source of controversy – does not serve the public. Limb lengthening could be a life changer for many physically disabled people, if they only knew about it. The corporate media could perform a genuine service here.


Paula Baker, “Children’s Hospital limb-lengthening procedure transforms young lives,” Global News (Canada), November 3, 2014,

Andrew Pearce, “Restoring Limb Length Following Bone Cancer Surgery,” On Cancer blog (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center), November 26, 2014,

Student Researcher: Rachel Smith (Frostburg State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)